ladycallie: (Bark if you love Newfoundlands)
[personal profile] ladycallie
Those you've known
And lost, still walk behind you
All alone
They linger till they find you

Without them
The world grows dark around you
And nothing is the same until you know that they have found you

~ Spring Awakening

My last post was in February, two weeks before our dear Newfoundland, Mac, crossed the Rainbow Bridge. We miss him terribly, and his absence left us with a paw-shaped hole in our hearts that we had no idea how to fill. We light candles for his memory, and say "goodnight" to them. We learned how to come home to Izzy only, and how to help her cope with being an only dog for the first time ever. We didn't talk about getting another dog, because the only one we wanted was Mac.

Time passed by, as it is want to do. We started taking Izzy with us whenever we went to Jessica's parents house, so she could play with their dogs. While driving home after 4th of July celebrations, we started talking about how we thought Izzy was lonelier than we realized. We tossed around the idea of adopting an older dog, maybe a larger black dog that might not be as adoptable as a cute puppy. We looked at the city shelter's website (which coincidentally, is located two blocks from our house). There was a 4 year old male lab listed who caught our eye. He'd been an owner surrender, and he'd been at the shelter for a few weeks. We decided to go and meet him.

We didn't make it to the shelter the next day, and later Friday night Jessica pulled up the website again and noticed a listing she had skipped over before. There was no picture, but the breed was a Newfoundland. An all black, 5 year old boy.

Now, Jessica and I were pretty shocked. Newfies aren't common in Texas, for obvious reasons. We also had mutually agreed that we didn't want another Newfoundland, possibly ever, because Mac had been so great. We didn't think another Newfie could compare. But here was one, down the street, and we didn't see the listing the first few times we looked at the site. The listing had very little information, no idea of his size, temperament, health, anything. He was brought in a stray, and had been in the shelter about two weeks.

We wondered if maybe this was a sign. We decided maybe it was, and we would definitely inquire about him tomorrow when we went to look at the lab.

The shelter is pretty small and not fantastically funded. The building can hold about 40 dogs, and while the kennels have both an inside and an outside (open to outside air, all concrete) run, the staff were not as dedicated to adopting the animals out as I've seen at other shelters. The lab was there, and was naturally cute and exuberant. We looked for the Newfoundland and found him tucked into the corner of his kennel, which was one of the last in the row and had tall steel walls so your view was somewhat limited. The Newfie raised his head, but otherwise was unengaging. We asked about the lab, and found that he had been returned twice because he did not get along with other dogs. That wouldn't work for our family, so we asked about the Newfoundland. They said he was "available", but that "he wasn't a nice dog", and was "basically feral". The shelter had received reports of him running loose for 4 weeks, and it took them another week to finally catch him. They said it took 4 staff members to bring him in. We asked about behavior, and they said that he tried to bite when they loaded him with the catch pole into the truck after they caught him (this was after 5 weeks out in a texas summer). One staffer mentioned that there was a woman who worked for the shelter and would be in on Sunday who would know more about him. We collected her business card and took another peek at him. He was still in his corner and wouldn't raise his head to us. We left, dogless, and went to another city shelter (perk of living in a metroplex), but didn't see anyone there that really called out to us.

We talked a lot Saturday, and Jessica wanted to go back the next day and talk to this woman about the Newfie. So we go back the next day. The lady is there, however she doesn't know anything more. In fact, she's never interacted with him before. We ask if we can meet him, and she goes to collect him. Now, he isn't a large dog, but he's one of the biggest dogs they have there, and the only dog that isn't actively trying to engage with visitors (aka not jumping up and down barking madly like the others). She brought the catch pole with her, and he wanted nothing to do with her. He shrunk down and moved as far away from her as possible. He wasn't giving classic dog stress indicators (he wasn't yawning, licking lips, panting excessively, shivering, tail wasn't tucked tight, and he was making eye contact). But he was clearly saying "don't touch me". The lady wasn't keen to, and we didn't want her to drag him out and upset him. She said maybe if we came back a few times and talked to him from outside his kennel, he might warm up to us. We agreed that we were interested in doing that, and planned to come back Monday after work (we verified the shelter would be significantly quieter then).

Now, Sunday night was a night of much discussion. We made lists out loud, and ran dozens of scenarios. Izzy is not a standard dog in that she's very fearful of new things, and we wanted to make sure that any buddy we adopted would be not just compatible with her but companionable with her. And this Newfie was still such an unknown. While on one hand he was exactly what we said we were interested in -- large, black, not as easily adoptable as a puppy; he was also potentially aggressive, we knew nothing about his health status, and we hadn't actually met and engaged with him.

Sunday rolled into Monday, and we mutually decided that if we could get to meet him and providing he didn't bite us in the process, we would take him home. We had already consulted with a behaviorist, and we'd made accommodations so that he could be kept separate from Izzy. Jessica believed that as long as he wasn't so reactive that we couldn't get him home safely, we could give him the time to settle in and we could rehabilitate him. Although that wasn't what we had originally wanted, we felt maybe this was the Universe giving us a sign. I jokingly said we could call him Owen, after Owen Hunt from Grey's Anatomy*. Owen is an war veteran with PTSD, and suffers a severe attack one night when the ceiling fan in his girlfriend's apartment triggers his memories. He ends up choking his girlfriend until he wakes up. This is the catalyst to him acknowledging that he has PTSD and getting help for it. When Jessica asked why I thought that would be a good name, I reminded her that while Owen's girlfriend couldn't fix his PTSD, she could (and did) rip out the ceiling fan that triggered it. Sometimes you can't fix the traumatic memories right away, but you can find ways of trying to make them better. You can yank the ceiling fan out. We could take this dog home and give him time and patience, and maybe he'd eventually become the kind of dog that we were looking for.

This time we brought an arsenal with us - 4 kinds of dog treats, 5 hot dogs, 2 squeaky toys, and Mac's harness (which is gentler for large dogs that may be leash shy). After sitting with his kennel door open, but not entering, we had stuffed him with half a bag of doggy jerky, which after the first 15 minutes under the door he felt comfortable enough to take from our hands door open. After 45 minutes sitting with him Jessica went to try and convince the staff to let us adopt him, to which the staff told her to "try and get a leash on him first". She and I used soft words, high value treats, and gentleness, and 15 mins after that, he walked out of the shelter.

Here's where the transformation happened.

We thought we might have to walk him the two blocks home if he was too scared to get in the car ---- we shouldn't have worried, for the moment the trunk went up, he jumped in and chose to ride shotgun. Jessica rode in the back, lol.

We let him explore the fenced backyard when we got home, not intending to introduce him to Izzy. He found one of her tennis balls in the yard, and when Jessica tossed it for him ---- he bounded after it, tail high and happy, and I kid you not, he brought the ball back and dropped it at her feet.


This dog was a completely different dog from the one at the shelter. This is a joyful dog, a curious, kind, affectionate, perky, and happy dog. With cautious restraint, we brought Izzy out to meet him. She was cautious, but not nearly as fearful and upset as we anticipated her to be.

This story is already long, so let me sum up the last few details, and show you a couple of pictures:

- less then 24 hours after coming home, Owen (yep, the name stuck) received a good bill of health from our vet**, and had a fantastic first bath (he actually laid down in the tub, no fear at all).
- his coat was very dirty and matted from when he was running, but the bath got the dirt out, and he enjoys being groomed at home. He has a few ouchies from where mats caused a sore, or where he itched a hot spot, but they are starting to heal. No fleas, no heartworm, and the vet laughed when we said the shelter estimated him at 5 years old. he's just over a year.
- he has had no accidents in the house, and by day 2 both dogs were playing tug with toys in the yard. He's very polite and lets Izzy have the toy if she fusses at him. He sleeps through the night, and is a lovely gentleman while we are at work. He loose-leash walks on Mac's harness, and nearly levitates with joy to go on his AM and PM walks.

We are completely in love with him. Our hearts will never love him exactly like we love/ed Mac, but he came into our lives in such a remarkable way, we know Mac was involved. He reminds us so very much of Mac, and we believe that he had a visit from an Angel-Newfie the day/night before we came to adopt him. We're very grateful that he is a part of our family now.

And now for the pictures! The first is Owen still in his kennel at the shelter, just before we walked him out. The second is 24 hours after coming home, after his bath. The third is him today, asleep in the hall.

And this last one is Mac, back in December when he was in remission, and displaying the epitome of a Newfoundland - patient and devoted to his family, as I attempted to Pinterestize him for pictures.

Thank you, big guy. We will always love you.

* Yes, Izzy is named after Izzie Stevens, also from Grey's Anatomy. We changed the spelling because when we got our Izzy, the fictional Izzie was possibly dying and I didn't want that juju on our puppy.
** Keeping in style with the wondrous events of finding Owen, when we were at the vet's, there was a knock on our exam room door. It was Katherine, the vet tech who was very kind to us as we went through Mac's cancer. She doesn't actually work at our clinic anymore, but just so happened to have brought her dog in for a check up that day, and saw us there. She was excellent with Mac, and when The Big Sadness happened, she cried with us. She made a profound difference in our experience, and it meant a lot to us that the Universe had her at the clinic and she was able to meet Owen.

Date: 2013-07-14 03:14 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I had happy tears reading this! You can see such a difference in the three pictures of Owen (LOVE the name and where it came from, of course) he looks so relaxed in the last one.

He's such a beautiful baby and he's found a fantastic home with you guys.

Date: 2015-03-12 06:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
So this is a very late reply, but I just read this post. I'm so sorry you lost Mac. It must have been so horrible to go through.

But Owen - what a moving story. You guys are made of awesome, y'know that? Sounds like the poor guy was going through shelter shock (and the folks at the shelter were somewhat apathetic, eh?). I can only think it's totally understandable. How would I feel and act, after all? Somehow separated from everything I had ever known, lost and wandering for 5 weeks in the wilderness, then captured by strangers and locked up in jail with no idea why and no clue if anything would ever change.

I say again - you guys are made of awesome. Much love to all of you!!!

April 2015

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